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Game Info:

Atomic Heist
Developed By: Live Aliens
Published By: Live Aliens
Released: April 19, 2018
Available On: Windows, Xbox One
Genre: Action, Roguelike
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for fantasy violence
Number of Players: single player
Price: $7.99

*Advertising disclosure* - After this review was posted, Black Shell Media became an advertising partner.  This review is not influenced by this relationship.

Thank you Black Shell Media for sending us the review code!

Atomic Heist is another entry to the expanding roguelike genre. At this point, there are probably too many to name off of the top of anyone's head as there always seems to be one that releases every month. Roguelikes are rarely known for their story or narrative, but Atomic Heist’s plot begins with the Rhaokyn alien race attacking and overtaking the Hyperion-Six station. They want the atomic core for themselves and its up to you to escape with it in one piece.

Atomic Heist is a twin-stick 2D top-down shooter with randomly-generated levels. It begins with a tutorial explaining the controls and mechanics. Both the keyboard and mouse controls feel responsive—although if you happen to play this on a PC, make sure that only one controller is plugged in. With two or more controllers plugged into a PC, the game becomes rather unresponsive if controller options are enabled. The mechanics are pretty simple with your primary fire consisting of the type of ammo you start with or pick up in the levels. Your secondary fire uses your alternate weapons, which by default is an atomic bomb that detonates after a few seconds. Within the levels contain various weapons that can be swapped with each other such as napalm shots that explode with an area of effect and splinter shots which shoot one bullet that splits into eight after it reaches a certain distance. Enemies are resistant to certain weapon types while being weak to others so it is encouraged to switch weapons. Fortunately, you can hold two weapons at a time.

Your ship starts off in a bunker where you get the option to choose a perk to start with where most of them have beneficial and detrimental features. For one example, one perk can let you obtain more ammo per pick up but gives enemies 20% more health. It is best to start with the perk that enables your HUD as that has no downsides to it. The second option is to choose the weapon type and ship you start with. All weapons have a description of what enemy it is strong and weak against. All ships have different stats such as hit points, speed, and ability points. The ability points are relevant for the following screen as you allocate your points to specific attributes such as more starting health or ammo, or special abilities such as hacking computers. These abilities can range from one to four ability points. There is a level up system and with each level gained, a new ability is obtained. The last option is for the daily challenge where you go through the game with a predetermined ship and perks/abilities.

Atomic Heist
Highlights:

Strong Points: Loads of perks and power-ups to choose from; a good amount of replay value for the price
Weak Points: Basic level design and aesthetics; some frustrating deaths that feel like nothing could have been done; some stability issues such as distorted sounds and controller options bugging out
Moral Warnings: Ships are attacked and they can blow up

Once you’re thrown into battle, the objective is to go through ten levels and defeat the final boss while enemies such as ramming types, shielding types, and pulsing types impede your progress. For every three levels, a boss appears and just like standard enemies these bosses are resistant and weak to certain weapon types. You can go through the levels without destroying all the ships, and can even skip some levels by blowing up “glitched” walls. Sometimes it is best to defeat all the enemies in a level because the next level (unless it is the tenth and final level) will grant you the option to choose a perk as you did at the beginning. Due to the wide variety of weapons, shooting can feel pretty tense as enemies with different strengths and weaknesses will start to funnel towards you. Swapping constantly between weapons, alternate weapons, and even fire rate makes Atomic Heist feel strategic as you plot how to take out these groups of enemies safely.

The health system is pretty unique as it recharges over time, but also slowly depletes due to your ship carrying a radioactive core. Represented by green, grey, and blue—the green health is the health you currently have, the grey is the health that can be recovered over time, and the blue is the unrecoverable health. Being hit constantly also contributes to the blue part of the health bar. If a radiation symbol is picked up, it can turn that blue part into grey recoverable health. I am fond of this mechanic as it encourages you to not stick around a level for too long or to not get hit by enemies too often.

Death comes rather easily in Atomic Heist, especially compared to other roguelikes (that I have played). Damage from enemies are high, and there are some perks with the downside of being hurt by the flames of the charred wreckage left by the enemy ships. Later in the levels are mines that can even come close to one-shotting your ship. Combine this with the lack of invincibility frames (unless you’ve obtained a certain perk), certain weapons dealing self-harm, and tight corridors, dying in less than a second was a pretty common occurrence for me to the point of frustration. Sometimes it just felt like there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. It does get slightly better when you’re able to obtain more perks, power-ups, and ships.

Atomic Heist
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 71%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 3.5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The graphics and sound design aren’t really anything special. Even with the randomly generated levels, some generated levels can feel similar due to the average aesthetics. Neither one will be winning awards anytime in the future. They are there for the sake of being there—nothing more, nothing less.

Interesting enough for a game that is available for a console, Atomic Heist gave me a lot of trouble when trying to enable a controller. Certain buttons wouldn’t work, some buttons would do a different action, and movement was all over the place. I later found out the problem was due to having two controllers plugged in. Some parts would also make my sound drivers freak out as a notification would constantly pop up saying that my audio device was unplugged. Within the mechanics, there is a rather strange interaction between these sliding walls. Sometimes you’ll simply clip out of them and at other times, they drag you along and instakill you. Other than those, I didn’t come across any crashes.

Morally, the only thing I noticed was the typical ship-on-ship violence. The ships blow up. Nothing about the story sticks out as it is pretty minimal in itself.

I did get more enjoyment out of Atomic Heist than I first assumed I would. In many ways, the game reminded me of Nuclear Throne, another twin-stick roguelike. There were many deaths that frustrated me, but it did want me to play more as the mechanics are solid on their own. The wide variety of options in ships, perks, and weapons make multiple playthroughs feel warranted. The progression system is also nice and some of the ways ships are unlocked are pretty clever and cryptic (that hacking ability really comes in handy for unlocking some of them).

People who are very familiar with roguelikes can get a lot of mileage out of Atomic Heist so I can safely recommend it to fans of the genre. The cheap price might be tempting to newcomers, but the irritating deaths and basic aesthetics may not be the best introduction for many. Atomic Heist could be better with some more polishing but as of right now, it is a pretty good game.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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